Having both studied at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, sisters Sara and Shirley Tse offer an interesting vision of the fracturing international art world. Sara, based in Hong Kong, works on an incredibly intimate scale that balances craft and affect, while older sister Shirley, based in Los Angeles for some twenty years, embraces a more sterile vision of post-minimal sculpture. The exhibition is of great comparative interest for observers of Chinese and Hong Kong art as it emerges into the global mainstream, presenting an intriguing case of how personal networks and interactions define the flow of ideas across borders and into different regional contexts.
The work of Sara Tse takes inspiration from her immediate environment, and is often related to craft techniques like textiles and ceramics. “Handkerchief no. 1-3” (2010,) for instance, rhetorically frames three handkerchiefs given or received by various female relatives, each one further embellished with dried flower petals and leaves related to the particular situation at hand. In “My February: Dress no, 200-228,” a number of porcelain recreations of tattered clothing are displayed on a metal rack. Touching as they may be, these situations leave little to the imagination and operate only within a minuscule arena of emotion, presenting not insignificant barriers to appreciation by a more international audience.
Shirley Tse, on the other hand, is much more immediately recognizable within the narratives of contemporary art after minimalism, obviously interested in questions of materiality and the constitution of reality tempered with an eye for the aesthetic intrusion of such art-historical preoccupations into machinic assemblage and the public imagination of fictional minor architecture. The standout work included here is “Soft Dark Upheaval” (2009), in which a translucent and flexible black tubing weaves in and out of a single sheet of plywood manipulated into a strict geometric shape. The artist is at her best with such ambiguous small pieces, but, like her sister, her work suffers when too much specifically referential content seeps in, as with sculptures that more explicitly address notions of identity and migration.
-- Robin Peckham
(Images from top to botom: Shirley Tse, Platform; Sara Tse, My February: Dress no. 200-228; Shirley Tse, Soft Dark Upheaval.)